The Welterweight Brims With Talent But it Seems to be Going Nowhere
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Sun, 17 Jan 2021
The welterweights has three of the best pound for pound fighters and formidable champions for at least three years now in Errol Spence (WBC-IBF) Terrence Crawford (WBO) and Manny Pacquiao (WBA).
The division also has promising and potential-laden secondary titlists in Yurdenis Ugas and Vergil Ortiz as well as top rated contenders that include former champions in the division or in the lower weight classes in Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia and Mikey Garcia.
Given these, it can lay claim to being the most talented and supposedly, most competitive division of all of professional boxing at present.
However, the welterweight division seems to be floundering as its top titleholders keep on avoiding each other, denying the boxing fans of the fights they have long been asking for to determine who is really who, the rightful boss of the 147 lbs class.
A little more than five years ago, in between Floyd Mayweather, Jr.'s retirement in late 2015 and prior to Pacquiao's upset WBO title loss to Jeff Horn in 2017, there was little controversy who was the top welterweight---UK's Kell Brook.
Brook gained the billing by winning the IBF title from Porter in 2014 and maintaining a brisk fight schedule that included two successful title defenses in a space of few months and a failed but courageous challenge of the dreaded Gennadiy Golovkin in 2016.
But Brook lost that billing in May 2017 when he was defeated by Spence via 11th round stoppage in a slambang affair before an overflowing capacity crowd in London.
By virtue of that victory, Spence not only wrested the IBF title but the billing as the top welterweight in the world, earning him also a high pound for pound ranking by the Ring Magazine as well as other rating bodies.
Spence has since defended the IBF title twice, once against Lamont Peterson, added the vacant WBC crown to his collection by defeating Mikey Garcia and defending the unified championship recently against Danny Garcia
Curiously, 2017 was the same year Pacquiao lost the WBO title he won from Jessie Vargas, the same man Brook tried but failed to lure to a unification in 2016 driving him to the folly of challenging Golovkin two divisions above.
Pacquiao, who could have rightfully crowded Spence for the billing as the best welterweight, unfortunately dropped an upset albeit controversial unanimous decision to Horn in July 2017 in Australia, ruining his chance at redeeming what he lost in the 2015 defeat to Floyd.
Then came along Crawford who after dominating the lightweights and the junior welterweights, utterly defeated Horn in June 2018 becoming the new WBO kingpin and establishing himself as a force in the loaded 147 lbs class.
Terrence has thus far been move active in defending his WBO title, registering four thus far but his most prominent challengers were a past prime Amir Khan and a shot Kell Brook.
Curiously again, just a month after Crawford beat Horn in 2018, Pacquiao, oft written as old, declining and ready for the pasture, surprised the boxing world by making yet another miraculous comeback by knocking out Argentine Lucas Matthysse to wrest the WBA welterweight regular title.
The regular title was designated by the WBA to make up for the absence of Keith Thurman, its super champion who had been out of action since mid 2017 due to injuries sustained in previous fights and training.
Without those injuries, Thurman could have had very well rivalled Spence as the best welterweight during the period for he had the most impressive resume among the then titleholders.
Thurman was WBA interim champion since 2013 and became full champion in 2015 after beating Robert Guerrero. He added the WBC title when he defeated then titlist Porter and defended his unified championship against Danny Garcia between 2016-mid 2017.
But injuries forced his long inactivity until early 2019 when he fought and narrowly defeated Jesusito Lopez in a comeback title defense.
After defending the regular title by dominating points win over Adrien Broner, Pacquiao unseated Thurman as WBA super champion six months later in July 2019 via magnificent split decision victory.
Pacquiao has since not returned to the ring due to his Congressional duties and to the Covid pandemic that ruined his supposed unification fight versus Crawford in the Middle East set middle of 2020.
By virtue of his accomplishments across three divisions, Crawford was and has been rated higher in the pound for pound ranking of the Ring Magazine than Spence, hovering between number two and three compared to Spence whose highest was at number five.
However, due to his comparatively better accomplishments at 147 lbs class, Spence has retained his top position among the welterweights in the divisional ranking of the Ring with Crawford as number two.
Strange but true.
Fittingly, Pacquiao though no longer in the pound for pound list more due to inactivity, is listed number three among the welterweights.
Hence, the ongoing controversy: Who is really the rightful welterweight boss?
The welterweights has two of the best pound for pound fighters in the world and three of the most accomplished and decorated titlists.
But they would not like a showdown. Yet they are not getting or pursuing meaningful alternative opponents and fights.
Pacquiao is reportedly aiming for a lucrative match versus UFC star Conor McGregor.
Crawford has no definite opponent as of yet as Thurman balks at Bob Arum's "cheap offer".
Spence could settle for Porter who together with Danny Garcia almost has had their turns at champions dating back to Kell Brook, with the exception of Crawford and Pacquiao.
Quo vadis, one of the traditionally and historically best divisions of boxing and one of the original eight weight classes?
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
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